A Tale from the Indus

By Lina Bhatti

This is a tale of love and sorrow, hopefulness and melancholy, longevity and misery.

There once lived a girl as beautiful as the glowing moon. Her skin rang hues of sweet brown, mimicking the earthiness that flowed through her blood. She lived in a valley high up, beyond what you can imagine, cradled by towering stone mountains. The mountains gleamed with strength and nobility and courage – pure symbols of spirituality and signs of God. The girl loved these mountains.

Sindhu was her name.

There once lived a boy as handsome as the stars. He was graceful, intelligent, observant. His skin was like porcelain and his eyes were a deep brown, as deep as the earth surrounding him. He radiated light and joy and happiness, yet he was an observant individual. His friends would say he was a romantic, getting lost in the beauty of the moon, crying tears of wonderment at the mountains around him. For he too lived in a valley high up, beyond what you can imagine, cradled by towering green mountains. The mountains gleamed with passion and enchantment and inspiration.

Kabul was his name.

Sindhu and Kabul lived in valleys high up, beyond what you can imagine, cradled by towering mountains. But they lived in different valleys. Sindhu belonged to a people much more proud than she, Kabul belonged to a people much more provoked than he. For these two valleys and these two peoples did not get along. Rains and winds and centuries of feud separated these valleys and separated these people. The valleys fought with one another and its people followed their land, for that is all they knew.

Our tale starts on a day of clear skies and blessings. One night, young Kabul ventured through the town, dressed in earthy-toned robes. He climbed upon rock after rock and hill after hill until he reached the top of a mountain so high, beyond what you can imagine. He settled on a grassy area, and began to string his lute. His fingers became one with the lute, etched into the wood in a motion indescribable. Kabul began to sing a tale of love and sorrow, of hopefulness and melancholy, of longevity and misery. The melody drifted into the valley of Sindhu, for the peak Kabul was atop was right next to the valley of Sindhu. Young Sindhu heard the melody as she was walking along a path eroded by wind and rain. Entranced by the deep bittersweet tune, she followed it, and she followed it, and followed it, until she reached the top of a mountain so high, beyond what you can imagine. It was stoney and sharp, and she settled her dupatta atop the peak to cushion herself. From the peak, she closed her eyes and listened. She sang quietly along with Kabul, their voices harmonizing together, under the glowing moon and the thousands of stars.

Suddenly, the song stopped, and she opened her eyes. She looked up at the neighboring peak, and saw Kabul staring at her, in a deep stare with his deep brown eyes. She looked back at him. Kabul started to string again, and he motioned for Sindhu to sing. She sang louder this time. Kabul, enchanted by her sweet voice, sat back, and poured his heart into playing the lute. He had never seen such a beautiful girl. She had never seen such a handsome boy. And together, two members of the feuding valleys had never been seen together.

From that day onwards, Kabul and Sindhu ventured to their mountain tops every night. They sang together every day, they danced together every day, they lived together every day. Kabul was graceful and subtle, Sindhu was adventurous and tumultuous. Together, they struck a balance that was the result of the marriage of two valleys, of two peoples. Theirs was a story of harmony and tranquility.

On a dark rainy night, Kabul decided that Sindhu was the girl he wanted to marry, that he could have no other. He went to his father, and told him about how he met Sindhu, how he’s never talked to her, but their eyes meet every night, and they gleam with all of the light of the stars and the moon. He told his father about the mountain top Sindhu sat upon, how it was stoney and gray and sharp. He told his father that he wanted to marry this girl, this girl whose hair was as dark as night, and just as infinite. His father watched Kabul with a weary eye, and when Kabul finished, his father told him that Kabul would never marry Sindhu. The mountain Sindhu sits atop, Kabul’s father explained, is stoney and gray and sharp, and it belongs to stoney and gray and sharp people. Those people are our enemies, and we do not marry our enemies. The valley sits in a different direction than us for a reason; we must obey the laws of nature.

Kabul was distraught, saddened, frustrated beyond comprehension. He packed his lute, and ran out of the house. He ran and ran and ran up to the mountain top, beyond what you can imagine, his feet slugging in the runny mud, dragging step after step. Kabul finally reached the mountain top. Sindhu wasn’t there. He started playing his heartbroken, melancholic song. Somber tones passed through the valley. At this time, Sindhu was telling her parents about Kabul, and meeting the same reaction. How can you love a man from the valley of mountains that are green and hilly and earthy? The people from there are barbaric and dull and coarse.

Sindhu, extremeley distraught, ran through the rain, her dupatta flying behind her. She ran and ran and ran up to the mountain top, beyond what you can imagine, her feet flipping on the stone, pulling step after step.

While Sindhu was running up to the mountain top, Kabul’s father had ordered Kabul’s brothers to go take Kabul. When his brothers finally reached the peak, they saw Kabul crying and singing and playing his lute. His tears tangled with the rain dripping down his hair, his face, his hands. His fingers were bloody from playing his lute with such fervor and dismay. His brothers took Kabul, and obeyed their father. For in this land, nature’s word was law, and Kabul could never be with Sindhu. They took Kabul and tied his hands, and with a knife, they took Kabul’s life.

Sindhu reached the peak of her mountain, and saw the aftermath of what remained of Kabul. His blood flowed down the mountain that was green and hilly and earthy. Somehow, his tune still drifted across the valleys, the echo sending Kabul’s final message to Sindhu. Sindhu began crying and singing, wailing and tearing. She sang of grief and anguish and melancholy, of hopelessness and sorrow and poignancy, of tribulation and woe and gloom. Kabul’s blood was still falling, weaving with the rainfall. Sindhu’s tears were falling as well, weaving with the rainful. Her tears were blue. She eventually faded into her tears, and Sindhu was no more. The blood and the tears ran down and down and down their respective mountains.

Kabul’s blood that had streamed down became a river that rushed down the mountain that was green and hilly and earthy. Sindhu’s tears became a river than rushed down the mountain that was stoney and gray and sharp. Their rivers reached the bottom, and met finally, flowing into one another.

To this day, the Sindhu and the Kabul meet at a point at the base of these mountains. Kabul is still red, his blood brimming through this manifestation of his soul. Sindhu is still blue, her tears accumulating her desperation. They say that this point where the River Kabul and the River Sindhu meet is the only time that Kabul and Sindhu met in the same spot. They say that the River Kabul still cries tones of melancholy for his Sindhu, and that Sindhu still weeps for her beloved Kabul.

They say that the rivers have a soul of their own, for documenting the utter violence that had ended their love, and the utter sacrifice required to continue their love. The River Kabul and the River Indus live to tell this tale, and should you hear it, you must take the duty of telling this romance of love and sorrow, hopefulness and melancholy, life and misery.